Selling Power Magazine Article

Tell and Sell
Heather Baldwin

Whenever she wants to make a point about trying to blend in, Sue Hershkowitz-Coore, president of High Impact Presentations in Scottsdale, AZ, recalls a time she hopped into a cab in Manhattan and in her best heavy, fake New York accent, told the driver, “Hi! I need to go to...” and gave him the address of her next appointment. The driver, she says, turned around in his seat and said, “Where are you from, lady?” Hershkowitz-Coore replied she was from New York, but the cabbie was on to her. “Lady,” he said, “no one from New York gets in my cab and says, ‘Hi.’”

That true story always gets a laugh, says Hershkowitz-Coore, but more importantly it gets her message to stick in the minds of her audience because they can visualize the scene and imagine themselves there. “People can relate to stories,” she explains. “And if they can relate to your stories they can relate to you, which means they’re more apt to like you and thus more likely to buy from you.”

How true! Stories, metaphors and anecdotes are the stuff of which sales are made because they appeal to the emotional side of our brain – the side that ultimately makes the purchase decision. When we hear about another person’s experience, we can start imagining ourselves in their place, say the experts. We can see ourselves faced with the same challenges, making some of the same decisions and achieving the same successes. In other words, it puts a message into context if a process uses both sides of the brain.

Facts and figures, on the other hand, engage only the left side of the brain, which “is literally paralyzed when it comes to making a decision,” says Mitch Anthony, president of Rochester, Minnesota-based Peer Power Communications and co-author of Storyselling for Financial Advisors (Dearborn Financial Publishing, 2000). “People analyze with their left side,” he explains in Storyselling. “They agonize over information and numbers, but they don’t decide. The right side puts it all together and forms a picture, gets a feeling and then makes a leap. Once the decision has been made, the left side kicks in and wants to get it done with planning and organizing.”

Anthony recalls the story of an insurance salesperson who understood this concept well. During a pitch to a car dealer, the salesman realized he needed to prove that his company’s policy, while similar to his competition’s policy in some respects, was the better-quality choice for the dealership. He could have rattled off a series of statistics about the number of years his company had been in business, their low percentage of client turnover, and the great customer satisfaction survey results. Instead, he tried a metaphor.

“What time is it?” he asked the dealer, having noticed the dealer’s Rolex watch. The dealer looked at his Rolex and said it was 10:15. The salesperson then looked at his own Timex and remarked that his watch showed exactly the same time. “Now I’m guessing,” he continued, “that you probably paid about a hundred times more for your watch than I paid for mine. Yet they both keep the same time, so I’m assuming there’s a reason you paid so much more for yours.”

His point? At a casual glance, his insurance policy and the one being pitched by his competitor look the same. “But when you look under the hood,” the salesperson said, “you’ll see we’re worlds apart.” The customer not only got the picture and bought the policy, he found the metaphor so effective that he later instructed his own salespeople to use it, says Anthony.

That insurance salesman understood more than just the fact that stories are more persuasive than numbers. He also understood the quandary faced by most buyers today – differentiating between the myriad, similar-looking products and services being pitched to them. “There’s usually not much difference between products and services today,” observes Anne Freedman, president of Miami-based Speak Out Inc., and author of Unforgettable Speeches and Sales Presentations: in Eight Easy Steps (Speak Out Inc., 1998). “So what makes a buyer decide to choose one salesperson over another? The ability to tell stories that break down the barriers between you and the person you’re speaking to.”

So where do you find the stories and metaphors that enable you to connect with an audience? Start by looking at your own life, say the experts. Sit down and think about experiences you’ve had and clients with whom you’ve worked, then choose anecdotes that support the main points of your presentation and to which your potential customer can (continued on page 2)

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